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Internet use, social networks, loneliness, and quality of life among adults aged 50 and older: mediating and moderating effects

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Abstract

Background

The increase in longevity of people on one hand, and on the other hand the fact that the social networks in later life become increasingly narrower, highlights the importance of Internet use to enhance quality of life (QoL). However, whether Internet use increases or decreases social networks, loneliness, and quality of life is not clear-cut.

Purposes

To explore the direct and/or indirect effects of Internet use on QoL, and to examine whether ethnicity and time the elderly spent with family moderate the mediation effect of Internet use on quality of life throughout loneliness.

Methods

This descriptive-correlational study was carried out in 2016 by structured interviews with a convenience sample of 502 respondents aged 50 and older, living in northern Israel. Bootstrapping with resampling strategies was used for testing mediation a model.

Results

Use of the Internet was found to be positively associated with QoL. However, this relationship was mediated by loneliness, and moderated by the time the elderly spent with family members. In addition, respondents’ ethnicity significantly moderated the mediation effect between Internet use and loneliness.

Conclusions

Internet use can enhance QoL of older adults directly or indirectly by reducing loneliness. However, these effects are conditional on other variables. The indirect effect moderated by ethnicity, and the direct effect moderated by the time the elderly spend with their families. Researchers and practitioners should be aware of these interactions which can impact loneliness and quality of life of older persons differently.

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Correspondence to Rabia Khalaila.

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This study was not funded by any funding agencies. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Khalaila, R., Vitman-Schorr, A. Internet use, social networks, loneliness, and quality of life among adults aged 50 and older: mediating and moderating effects. Qual Life Res 27, 479–489 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-017-1749-4

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